Today, the stock market dropped by 15% amidst fresh fears that COVID-19 will continue to stall economic recovery. It was quite counterintuitive. Even though the Fed promised to not raise interest rates for the remainder of the year, US bank equities continue to decrease in value. Recently, a bank hired my team to advise them on liquidating assets to sustain bottom-line growth. It involved mass layoffs.

On the other hand, the housing market on the outskirts of New York is doing well because people don’t really want to live in the city anymore. Considering how often I fly to Manhattan, I considered buying a house near Manhattan for a time. It’s been six years since I started working, but I’m still not used to the feeling of flying. Motion sickness really does not go away with time. Buying a house, in a way, would cure my motion sickness.

My favorite place in Manhattan is Manhattan Beach. Manhattan Beach is a short walk from Coney Island. From Manhattan, taking the F train to its terminal stop would get you to Coney Island. After walking through the empty amusement park, you will get to a beach unlike any other beach. It is a beach, but in New York. You don’t typically imagine beaches and New York being synonymous with each other. Therefore, this beach was special.

The waves fluttered into the shore with pathetic thrashes into the sand. It was quite unlike the unrelenting force that resulted in Neiman Marcus to file for bankruptcy. I worked at the Neiman Marcus in Hudson Yards when I was in 10th grade, gently letting people know the difference between money and taste. They had good discounts for my tastes.

I was visiting in-laws, who lived in a condominium in Manhattan beach, this weekend. My wife told me we were having a seafood themed dinner. I haven’t had crab in some time, and the thought of having crab again excited me. I also haven’t seen my in-laws, but that excited me less.

There is very little meat in crab, but I suspect that it is precisely because there is very little meat in crab that people like to eat crab. People tend to value things when there is very little of a thing. Since we have an industry that produces crabs for us, we have an abundance of crab. Yet, there is still very little meat in crab, so it reminds us of a different world we have not lived in, one in which crab was truly scarce. It was a world before the world we lived in right now. Although, crab was still very expensive.

Their condominium took an entire floor, so when we arrived on the 14th floor, we arrived at their home. Her father greeted me first with a stern handshake followed by a tepid smile. He wore the same light blue button-up as me as if we were about to walk into a client presentation together. I didn’t like her father, but I returned a warm smile anyways. He was one of those fathers that didn’t like any guy that his daughter dated. I suspected it was because he wanted to have his own daughter for himself. Not sexually, but he was probably resentful to some extent that he raised a girl for all of her life only to have some random guy swoop up and take her away from him. It was quite a possessive mentality. He did not like me even before I met him, and it was beyond me to put any effort into changing that.

Her mother, on the other hand, greeted me with warm hug, telling me how nice it was to see me. I smiled back. Her wrinkles were becoming very evident around her eyes, which was a product of her abundant smiling, but it was also an indicator of age. Her mother was ten years older than her father. I have no idea how they started dating, but I wasn’t going to ask. It was one of those conversation topics that would only sour our relationship. High risk, low upside. In-laws are one of those figures where an ounce of politeness is the ideal state of being. Genuine connection is neither warranted nor desirable, as it could only lead to conflict. True intimacy is contained within significant others and no one else.

Dinner was already served when we walked into the dining room. All the seafood was served in white plates and covered with saran wrap. My wife removed all of the saran wraps while I sat down with her mother and father.

“How is work?” asked her father.

“We’re doing remote for now,” I replied. “So that has been an interesting transition. But I should be on track for a promotion by the end of the year.”

“Congratulations,” said her mother. “Did you know about this, pumpkin?”

I was allergic to pumpkin, so the word pumpkin triggered me.

“Yes, mom,” replied my wife.

I looked at the table, and I noticed that there wasn’t any crab served. I wasn’t really disappointed considering the current landscape of the world. Since the world was on the brink of collapse, not having crab for dinner seems quite inconsequential. It seems that most of the things that happened in my life is quite inconsequential. Senior year of college, when I received an offer at my current company during recruitment, I considered that to be the most accomplished I have ever felt. Not coming from a target school, it was a pretty big deal between my friends and an even bigger deal with my parents. But now, I’m not high enough in the corporate hierarchy where I get to choose which projects I get staffed on. Before COVID, most of the time I was staffed on industrial projects in the middle of Ohio. After COVID, if I die because of COVID, I doubt that the world would change that much. My wife would be sad, of course, but she would get over it eventually. My company would hire another consultant from a rival firm, and the profits will continue to be maximized. Such is capitalistic equilibrium.

We didn’t do much talking after the food started. Food has that sort of silencing effect on people. In the middle of the table was a grilled squid, chopped at horizontally a couple centimeters apart from each other. I decided to name this squid Sarah out of boredom.

Sarah the squid had a purple hue to her. I brought a piece of Sarah to my plate and poked her for a bit. I jabbed Sarah with my fork piercing her with the same consistency as the time I accidentally jabbed my inner cheek with a cotton swab. It also reminds me of when kids used to “taser” me in elementary school by jabbing their fingers into my ribs. Sarah did not respond. Of course, Sarah did not respond. Sarah was dead. Sarah was a grilled squid. Sarah was very dry now because she had been grilled. Even though Sarah was a grilled squid, I imagined Sarah’s sliminess when she was still alive. At one point, Sarah was very much alive. Her dryness marked her death. Obviously, Sarah was also grilled, so she had a mark from her time on the grill as well.

My wife was talking about the latest case on which she was staffed. She was pricing bread for a multinational conglomerate attempting to enter a new market. I already heard about this case from two weeks ago, so I stared outside at the crashing waves through the window to my left. At this point, the sun was setting, so I could see my reflection against the faint blue exterior. The waves flowed softly against the shore, and the shore absorbed the waves into its caress. I lost focus and found myself looking back at myself in the window. It is funny how windows have that effect of being simultaneously reflective but also transparent. What an aspirational way to live life. Yet, I was sitting here with my wife and my in-laws. At one point in time, I met these people for the first time ever. Now, I’m at their house eating Sarah the grilled squid.

Today, I met Sarah the grilled squid for the first time ever in my life. I suspect, after I finish eating Sarah, I will never see Sarah again. Well, technically, I will be taking a shit in a couple of hours, and then Sarah will come out of my back end. It wouldn’t be the first time I treated a Sarah like a piece of shit. That was a while ago. There are so many people in my life whom I met once and never met again. Those people in my life come with the wave and leave with the wave. Yet, those countless people have affected me in one way or another to form the person I am today. Rocks on the shore are eroded by the countless cycle of waves that come and go with the tide. In that regard, a lot of my current existence is the product of a series of interactions with some people affecting me more than others.

If I go to live in the mountains, will I be free from the waves? I could live for myself, live far away from people. There wouldn’t be anyone that could affect me, and I would have complete power over my own emotional being.

Then, I looked back at Sarah the grilled squid. I wonder what Sarah was like before she was captured and converted to a grilled squid. She was alive at one point. She was slimy. She was able to swim the vastness of the ocean, all alone, and let the deep undersea current carry her wherever she wanted to go. It would be so dark, like death, and taste the sweetness of falling out of existence. There would be nothing she would see. There would be nothing to see either. Being able to float in the middle of infinity — that’s something humans will never be able to experience, at least in my lifetime. She could very well fall out of existence at any point in the depths. There could be a predator lurking in the corner, ready to gulp her up at any moment.

This constant fear of death while embracing the feeling of death equates to the fundamental feeling of existence.

I wonder what it’s like to be like Sarah the grilled squid, floating in the middle of the ocean, where it would take hours to reach the surface or the ocean floor. One day, I would like to be like Sarah the grilled squid. If I could not see the daylight, I would never know what time it is. I would exist in this endless plane of darkness. It would very much be like death. Timeless darkness. For many people, I suspect that it is a scary thought — being forced to perceive time pass by in the sea of darkness. I suspect Sarah the grilled squid perceives time quite unlike me. If there is nothing to contextualize time, then how can we understand time? Sarah the grilled squid could not contextualize time, so does she even have a sense of time?

I started to poke Sarah again. I don’t know if she likes my poking. Why would I care? Sarah is a grilled squid. Sarah died to become my food. If I do not eat Sarah, I effectively have wasted her existence. She had a life before. Then, her purpose was reduced to become my food. Some fisherman enforced his purpose on Sarah, and Sarah was reduced to be food for me. Sarah probably wanted to have a lot of sex before she died. There are probably a lot of squids who wanted to have sex with Sarah. But, unfortunately, Sarah won’t be able to have sex with all of those bachelor squids who wanted to have sex with her. That’s quite unfortunate. I imagine Sarah was pretty disappointed that she was not able to hook up with numerous hottie squids who hangs around the coral reef.

When humans are bored, they tend to do things to alleviate their boredom. This rejection of boredom amounts to the essential motivation of existence.

I wonder if Sarah was bored a lot. The ocean is very big, so it’s not like you have a lot of places to hang around. When I was a teenager, I used to smoke weed with my high school friends in this abandoned textile factory in the middle of the industrial district. I was very bored back then. I’m no so bored anymore. There aren’t that many abandoned textile factories in the ocean, I bet. There are shipwrecks, but you need to dive very deep to get there. I guess coral reefs are the abandoned textile factories of the ocean. That’s right. A lot of fish and other creatures hang around coral reefs. Coral reefs are definitely the abandoned textile factories of the ocean. Although, I guess coral reefs are more like the mall. What am I thinking? No one goes to the mall anymore. This isn’t the 80s. Where do people hang around nowadays? Right, the hang around abandoned textile factories. Wait. Cities. They exist too. People hang around cities. But, coral reefs have a distinctly different vibe from cities. For one, cities are not colorful. Coral reefs, on the other hand, are colorful. I wonder if Sarah liked brutalism. I really like brutalism.

Boredom is the equivalent of feeling time pass by. It is a reminder of existence. The perception of time is a reminder of existence. Most of the time, I don’t like to be reminded that I exist. I don’t like to be bored.

“– what do you think, honey?” asked my wife.

Instinctually, my attention returned back to the dinner table. I distantly recall my wife mentioning about US-China relations.

“Yeah, it’s crazy what’s going on,” I replied. “I heard 20 Indian soldiers died in a border clash today.”

My mother-in-law stopped showering to speak. “Are you serious? That’s serious.”

The prospect of nuclear war was a distant possibility, I suppose, but unlikely.

I poked Sarah some more with my fork. I made some replies to questions asked towards me. I decided to not eat Sarah. Although, not eating Sarah would equate to negating her existence. How cruel would that be? Why would she care? Sarah is a grilled squid.